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Food aid experts: 'world hunger can be eliminated'

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KANSAS CITY, MO.

Despite the global economic crisis, soaring food prices and reports that millions more people joined the ranks of the undernourished in 2008, key experts at a major food aid conference here April 6-8 shared a tangible optimism that both the will and means are now at hand to attack and even possibly conquer world hunger.

Grounds for this cautious optimism, the experts say, can be found in an improved efficiency in collaboration and communication, advances in technology, greater expertise in understanding the roots of hunger within funding agencies and the emerging will to combat global hunger as exhibited by leading nations, including those who gathered early this month in London for the G-20 summit.

Budding optimism is certainly tempered by some harsh realities.


  • The 2009 global economic crisis follows in the wake of the 2008 world food crisis, which witnessed soaring prices for staple foods and sparked riots in some 30 countries.

Hijacked ship carrying food aid for Rwanda relief

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BALTIMORE
Food aid for Catholic Relief Services programs in Rwanda is part of the cargo on the Maersk Alabama, the scene of a recent pirate hostage standoff and hijacking.

CRS, the U.S. bishops' overseas aid and development agency, said in a statement April 9 that the U.S.-flagged, Danish-owned container ship, which was hijacked off the coast of Somalia by Somali pirates April 8, was holding a six-month supply of wheat for poor Rwandans.

"CRS hopes that the ship will now be able to make its way to its destination ... as any interruption of the food supply for these vulnerable Rwandans could be critical to their health," the statement said. "CRS also prays for the safe return of Capt. Richard Phillips, who is being held hostage by the pirates."

Phillips was taken hostage April 9 after hours of fighting between crew members of the Maersk Alabama and the Somali pirates. The 20-man ship eventually defeated the pirates, who then retreated into a lifeboat with Phillips. AP reported that as U.S. ships surrounded the lifeboat, the cargo ship was heading to Africa.

A new generation in Northern Ireland for peace

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Two twentysomethings from Northern Ireland, Paul Lilly, a Catholic, and Kelly McKee, a Protestant, have little in common when it comes to government rule in their province, but completely agree that violence is not the answer.

Referring to the killing of two British soldiers and a police officer within a 48-hour time period in early March by republican dissidents, McKee remarked, "The recent killings have certainly created a tension in the province, which I had hoped not to feel again."

Center teaches entire families in Ecuador

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QUITO, ECUADOR -- Can education alleviate poverty? One man who has lived with the poor of this South American capital believes that it can.

His name is John Halligan. The 78-year-old, white-haired Jesuit from South Bronx, N.Y., has spent nearly all of his priestly life with Ecuador's poor -- the last 45 in Quito among thousands of the city's "shoeshine boys."

Why we built a school in Tanzania

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When I came to Tanzania 25 years ago, primary education was mandatory for all school-age children. The schools, though tuition-free, were not well attended in the central part of the country where I was stationed.

Government officials would visit the schools to check their enrollment rosters. They would levy fines against the parents of children who were listed on the roster but not attending the school. To counter this, the parents would bribe the headmasters to have their children's names stricken from the roster. That way the children could be kept at home to tend the cattle and work in the fields.

Salvador president-elect offers a conciliatory tone

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Church leaders in El Salvador welcomed the reconciliatory tone of El Salvador’s first leftist President-elect Mauricio Funes after he declared victory over the rightwing ARENA party, which has ruled the country for 20 years.

After emerging triumphant in the returns with a 2.6 percent lead over opposing candidate Rodrigo Avila, Funes assured opponents that he will not use power to seek revenge.

Funes’ FMLN party was founded by guerrillas who waged a 1980-1992 war against the outgoing ARENA party, which enjoyed U.S. backing despite its links to death squads.

“Funes used sober, conciliatory, dignified language,” said San Salvador’s Auxiliary Bishop Gregorio Rosa Chavez.

Upon the FMLN’s victory, leftist leaders invoked the figure of Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was slain during mass in 1980.

Merardo Gonzalez, Secretary General of the FMLN, said the victory brought back memories of victims of the armed struggle he waged against the ARENA government as a leftist guerrilla commander in the 80s.

“I think of all my slain brothers and sisters. I think of Archbishop Romero,” he said.

Former journalist wins Salvadoran election

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SANTA ANA, El Salvador
Mauricio Funes, who campaigned that the moral strength of churches was at the center of change for this tiny Central American country, was elected president of El Salvador.

In his acceptance speech late March 15, Funes echoed the words of slain Archbishop Oscar A. Romero and touched on the ideas of liberation theology.

"The prophetic message of our martyr-bishop Archbishop Romero ... said that the church would have a preferential option for the poor. This will be the way I proceed, always looking to favor the poor and the excluded in a preferential way," he said.

Funes, a former television journalist who represented the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, or FMLN, defeated Rodrigo Avila by winning 51.3 percent of the vote.

During the country's 1980-92 civil war, the FMLN was a guerrilla group that fought the U.S.-backed government forces. It formed in 1980 after left-wing activists and church workers, including Archbishop Romero, were murdered.

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Cameroon journalist warns of ëcheap political pointsí from popeís visit

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Cameroon, a West African nation of 19 million that’s roughly 30 percent Catholic, is arguably the Vatican’s favorite destination in Africa. When Benedict XVI arrives on March 17, opening his first swing in Africa since his election to the papacy in 2005, Cameroon will become just the third African nation to have hosted three papal trips. (John Paul II visited Kenya and the Ivory Coast three times). Cameroon is also the papacy’s preferred platform to address the entire African continent: When John Paul came in 1995, he used the occasion to present “Ecclesia in Africa,’ his apostolic exhortation summing up the 1994 Synod for Africa. Benedict XVI will likewise issue the working paper for the second Synod for Africa in a meeting in Yaoundé, Cameroon’s capital, with bishops from across the continent.

'One small thing we can do'

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KANSAS CITY, MO. -- May and Randa are sisters. Their young faces are strong yet vulnerable as they talk to an interviewer making a short DVD about the Iraqi Student Project, a fledgling but bold initiative whose goal is to help place and fund Iraqi students in American universities and colleges.

The sisters are among some 20 other young Iraqis gathered in the outdoor courtyard of a house in Damascus, Syria, where they come each week to the "Writers' Workshop" to improve their English skills in hopes of securing student visas to go the United States to complete their education.

Forming African leaders

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Leaving Nairobi, with its traffic-choked streets, swanky buildings and vast slums, one heads west on Lang'ata Road toward the town of Karen, once the expansive farm of Karen Blixen of Out of Africa fame. There in sight of the Ngong Hills is a "little Vatican": Some 40 religious communities have established residences in the surrounding countryside. Among them one finds a unique experiment in religious education, Tangaza, a constituent college of the nearby Catholic University of Eastern Africa. As Tangaza College's gate swings open, a large statue of Mary, depicted as an African woman, comes into view, symbol of both the Annunciation and the college's motto -- "Tangaza fumbo la imani," or "Proclaim the mystery of faith." In myriad ways Tangaza does exactly that.

Twenty-three years ago Tangaza began as a bold adventure, born of necessity. Three religious congregations pooled faculty and resources in order to take on the education of some 20 students. Today Tangaza has 21 religious congregations as corporate members and enrolls 1,200 students, men and women, religious and lay, mostly Catholics, but with other Christians and a few Muslims among them. This student population includes representatives of most of Kenya's 40-plus ethnic groups and others from Asia, Europe and the rest of the African continent.

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July 18-31, 2014

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